Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Question For The Guru - How Do I Find Similar Musicians?

Hi Bob.

I got a question, its not really about my playing abilities, its about what I want to play. I've been playing guitar for about 8 years now, and have always wanted to play with other musicians of the same style or genre of music that im into. The thing is its pretty rare to find people who want to play like this, alot of people around here claim they can, but just happend to not know what their talking about which is a real waste of time for me. I'm a neo-classical/shredder type guitarist, I like playing stuff like Yngwie Malmsteen, Impellitteri, Michael Angelo, Vinnie Moore, Rusty Cooley, Jason Becker,ect. I've played with other bands and people, but get bored really fast because of the style/genre, although playing them is not a problem, I've also tried to find people who don't even know how to play anything at all and teach them, but they always want to learn punk or something along those lines.


Hey Derek:

You’re not alone. Many a musician has stood in your shoes facing the same dilemma.

“How do I find musicians of my caliber who wish to play the same style of music?”

This question becomes exceptionally difficult to answer when considering your musical influences and the type of music that you find motivating. It’s not like your interests and skills fall along the more simple formats of rock and roll, like cheesy pop punk or basic blues. You happen to be influenced by very skilled players who use their technical ability to its full advantage when creating and playing music.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is quit admirable, however it does diminish the size of the talent pool considerably. This type of a musicianship is very rare, as you have encountered.

Trying to train relatively unskilled musicians in your style of music is ambitious to say the least.

I’m not surprised it hasn’t really panned out. While your familiarity with this genre is obvious, musicians who are new to their instrument will find this style of music to be very hard to digest. Indeed, they will consider it an almost impossible mountain to climb. Imagine trying to comprehend Rusty or Vinnie’s technique when you were barely crunching out your first pentatonic box. It would be like a three year old trying to comprehend training to run a marathon. The goal would seem so far off in the distance that it would be almost impossible for most people to use as motivation.

The roots of rock and roll were grown in simplicity and that aspect of the music is quit appealing to both musicians and listeners alike. Many a great rock song could be played by a blind man with only two working fingers and a three chord vocabulary, and I love that aspect of rock and roll. New musicians can be almost instantly rewarded by learning simple rock and roll licks and that’s a good thing too. If they find it fun and it motivates them to keep playing, then more power to them. Perhaps one day they will find themselves on a similar path to yours.

So, this leaves us with your predicament. How do you find musicians with your same skill level and interests?

In your case, the answer is almost too easy.

The common denominator amongst the entire list of guitarists you mentioned is their almost insane desire and ability to learn and practice. These are all musicians who are very dedicated to their craft and the musicians who would enjoy playing with them would certainly be of the same mindset. We are talking about hard core students of their instruments; serious practicing musicians.

And where do we find serious practicing musicians?

These guys are hungry for knowledge and they will seek places that can give it to them.

Certainly, they will be hovering around the local music school waiting to take their next lesson.Your local University will have a music department, as will your local junior college, make it a point to go visit, take a lesson, sign up for a class. Remember, learning music isn’t always about studying only your favorite style, it’s about growing musically, and this is done by studying many styles. Practicing musicians might be taking a classical class, or music theory, jazz, improvisation, you name it. You don’t need to be a full-time student to take these classes, you don’t even have to be of college age; you just need the desire to learn.

Another great place to find these guys is at your local music stores in-store event. Often, professional players are required as part of their endorsement deals to tour these local stores and do in-store clinics. Knowledge hungry players of all calibers will flock to these events hoping to catch an eyeful of a new technique or trade secret.

Whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to only guitarists or players who work in your favorite style of music, check out drummers and bass players of all styles and genres.Your next bass player might very well be bellied up to the front starring wide eyed at Billy Sheehan’s amazing techniques, I know I was. Maybe your next drummer is digging the Tamma clinic run by Jason Bittner or Kenny Aronoff.

Now, depending on where you live, you might need to drive into the larger cities where the bigger in-store clinics happen more often. Get on their mailing lists and check the store flyers for more info. Trust me, they want you to come. Manufacturer websites are often quick to promote these events as well. Check out the “Artists” links. Fall is a great time of year for these clinics as the manufacturers are trying to push products for the holidays.

I’m sure you can see the trend here.

Just go to where the learning is happening, and there you will find serious practicing musicians of all kinds and calibers.

The other important point to all of this that I feel compelled to make is that very often these dedicated practicing musicians are somewhat introverted socially.

(Yes, I know, Yngwie “I’m a major cocky jackass” Malmsteen would definitely be an exception)

They tend to be low key soft spoken guys and will most likely not be running around talking to strangers. I guess that all goes along with the personality type that can sit in their room working new scales or paradiddles for 8 hours every day. You’re going to need to be a little more aggressive in your social skills to engage these players. However, I have yet to meet a skilled player who won’t open right up when talking about what music is motivating them, or what they are studying lately.

These guys/girls are not hard to spot. You’ll see an intense look of concentration on their face when their watching the clinic. You might even see them crack a smile when they are impressed with a musical phrase. They definitely won’t be the posers standing in the back of the crowd talking to their 3 friends about how they could do it better. Avoid those boners like the plague.

Aside from schools, clinics, and the odd online learning forum, another great option for forming a band can be classifieds. A quick search on Google for Musician Classifieds will bring up several popular options like: bandmix.com and jamconnect.com.

Another great option for local classifieds is Craigslist.org.

Many a great band was formed thanks to a crappy classified ad soliciting a new member. It can work, however be ready for lots of posers, losers, wannabees, and slackers.

(Wait, I just described my first high school band)

If all else fails, desperate times call for desperate measures.

When you head off to the next Outworld concert, you could always have a black t-shirt printed up with large neon green letters that say “I need a damn drummer and bass player”. This trick can also work for attracting groupies and sugar mommas; however the quality of the catch is questionable.

Seriously, I can tell from your influences that you are on an excellent musical path. Others are walking similar paths right now and I’m sure they would be very interested to know that you are as well.

The bottom line here is that you need to do a little networking. Put yourself in the position to talk to people with similar interests. Go to the places of learning, place the classified ads, and don’t be afraid to start up a musical conversation or two.

I’m confident that your band is out there right now just waiting to tear the roof off your next gig.

Just remember to hook your ol’ buddy Bob Narley up with a backstage pass.

Oh yeah, and be sure to lie to the groupies when they ask you my age.